I was never around for the initial hype surrounding Jet Set Radio. The game and its sequel Jet Set Radio Future came out during my infancy, and sadly no one else in my family is a gamer. As time went on I eventually discovered Jet Set Radio’s existence through the soundtrack available on YouTube, and some rips from the Siivagunner YouTube channel.
My interest was piqued, but for some reason, I never took it upon myself to actually find footage of gameplay, look into character design, or even try to find any modern ways to play it. In my mind, these games were relics of a different time, one where games were still trying to innovate and see what stuck creatively. Nearly a decade would pass before I heard any real mention of the games outside of Hideki Naganuma, lead composer for both games and self-proclaimed “CEO OF FUNKY FRESH BEATS” being mentioned online every now and then.
In 2020 Team Reptile announced Bomb Rush Cyberfunk (BRC), a spiritual successor to Jet Set Radio after SEGA left the series alone. I was excited, curious about what I’d been missing out on, but the game came and went on my online feed up until the last few weeks leading to its release. It was then that I realized how incredible this game would be.
Just like its predecessor, BRC’s music is the perfect playlist of unique and funky beats, with the track being mostly electronic with various weird samples. This music coincides perfectly with the general aesthetic of the game, bright and cel-shaded with alluring and sometimes trippy visuals. Each setting is a different city, but they never feel too similar to each other. The stages are designed in a way that creates unique environments to skate, flip, and grind through, all offering the chance to literally paint the town until it’s yours. Graffiti plays a major role in the game and every piece of art is designed by a different artist, further speaking to the game’s ideas of rebellion, individualism, and self-expression.
The story itself is short, sweet, and interesting, a perfect mix for a game about skating. You play as Red, a cyberhead who controls the body of Faux, a notorious “writer” (the game’s title for graffiti artists). Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is the gang that Red is a member of alongside Tryce and Bel, and together they work to find Faux’s head to return to his body, and go “All City” after defeating other gangs in turf wars and painting all five boroughs of the game’s setting of New Amsterdam.
Since I purchased the game about three weeks ago now, I’ve been playing it nearly every day. I’m about halfway through the story, but the bulk of my time has been just skating around and doing tricks. Each stage has a map that lets players find collectibles, but my loop is usually opening the map, looking for a yellow dot, closing said map, and skating off in that general direction regardless of whether or not I find something. The game also offers three different ways to ride, and a handful of characters outside of the main BRC crew to control. The BMX bike, inline skates, and skateboard all have their own unique tricks to do, and it makes switching between them a more fun experience. The hip-hop culture references are fun and a little ridiculous in ways that don't break the immersion or ruin the experience of the game. Want to switch to a different character? Easy! Just get into a cypher with everyone else and ride around town as a different character.
This game is entrancing in how the music, visuals, and gamefeel all come together to create a bright and colorful experience that boils down to trying to extend my combos for as long as I can to pass the time. I’ve been playing on my Switch OLED as well, which I personally think is the way to go with Bomb Rush Cyberfunk. Plugging in a pair of headphones and fully diving into the game adds to the feeling of skating around and jamming out rather than playing on a television. Playing this game makes me wish I worked harder to seek out Jet Set Radio as a youngster, or that my girlfriend had gifted me her copies of Skate 3 and Tony Hawk’s Project 8 sooner.
In a world of intense JRPGs, battle pass shooters, and microtransactions, it’s more than satisfying when a game like this comes around purely with the intent of just wanting players to hang out and kill time.
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